National Whistleblower Day

A round up of whistleblower news.

Whistleblower rewarded for exposing security flaws. From The New York Times

The government said the video surveillance software it bought from Cisco was “of no value” because it did not “meet its primary purpose: enhancing the security of the agencies that purchase it.” In many cases, the Cisco software actually reduced the protection provided by other security systems, the complaint said…

Lawyers for whistle blower James Glenn told the Times he was was working as a Cisco subcontractor, but was laid five months after he reported problems. When Glenn realized a year later that he could still hack into the surveillance system, he  contacted the F.B.I. Cisco has agreed to pay $8.6 million. More here from Reuters, which reports that Glenn will receive about $1 million.

Government Accountability Office on how the feds can do better

A recent GAO blog post talks about specific whistleblower issues and cases they’ve looked into.

After NASA’s Inspector General investigates potential reprisal, the NASA Administrator is responsible for determining within 30 days whether it actually happened. Whistleblowers count on a speedy resolution to their complaints.However, we found that NASA hadn’t been meeting the 30-day time frame since 2008. We recommended that NASA take steps to fix it….

We found that VA whistleblowers were significantly more likely than their peers to receive disciplinary action and had higher attrition rates than their peers who hadn’t reported misconduct—both of which may indicate that senior officials have retaliated against their whistleblower employees…

At DOD,…the IG offices have taken steps to protect confidentiality and safeguard whistleblower information in their IT systems and applications, such as by restricting access to case information through unique user permissions. However, we found instances in which DOD IG offices hadn’t fully restricted access to sensitive whistleblower information to only those IG employees with a need to know.

The post includes a summary of a report on how Congressional staff can handle information from whistleblowers:

Congressional staff have access to training and other resources on working with whistleblowers. To build upon what’s already available, we identified key practices for congressional staff, such as developing a secure tracking system to store information and being transparent with whistleblowers about decisions and priorities.

At the same time, a column in Roll Call points out that Senate staff have little protection when they blow the whistle.

The Roll Call column reports that Senators Ron Wyden and Chuck Grassley introduced a bill in 2016 “that would apply whistleblower protections available to certain executive branch employees to legislative branch employees,”

Wyden “reiterated his support for protections for legislative branch staff this week. But no members have introduced similar legislation so far this in the 116th Congress, Roll Call reports.

But Grassley raised concerns this week over the expansion of protections to Capitol Hill workers.

“I want to go back and look at the debate that we had on whistleblowers and see if that would be in conflict with the Speech and Debate Clause,” he told CQ Roll Call on Monday.

The Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution aims to protect the independence of the legislative branch by protecting against executive or judicial intrusions.